This is a guest post by Mike Brownstein, political science graduate student and blogger at Politics and Pucks.
At the SSA conference last week, Greta Christina said one thing that has been on my mind all week. She said that the secular movement is the first political movement where she has been a part of where she felt that people had her back on LGBT issues. As an ally I take this as a great compliment. One thing that atheists and LGBTQ individuals share it is a sense of pride about their causes and communities. In many cities around the world, LGBTQ communities share this pride with parades and a variety of other events. In some places it is very warmly received. For example, the Stanley Cup made a visit to the Chicago parade. However, in some places LGBTQ events are met with stark religious opposition. One of these places is in Israel.
The pride parade in Jerusalem is one that continues to be starkly opposed. In years’ past, the parade has seen its members severely insulted, and murder is not uncommon. Most of this opposition comes from the very religious nature of the city. This year, deputy Mayor Yitzhak Pindrus suggested the city run a “donkey parade” alongside the pride parade as a counter-protest. Pindrus claimed he wanted to show the “bestial nature of the pride march”. Luckily, the municipality was not in favor of sponsoring this. Although this idea was shot down, counter-protest occurred. Organized protests had posters that claimed that homosexuality is a voluntary disease, “sick perverts, leave Jerusalem”, and even a parade of puppet donkeys. Having been to Israel, this doesn’t surprise me. It is one of those major cities (similar to Cincinnati, OH), that has a conservative mind set. It should be expected for the religious symbolism, but at the same time, hate like this is unacceptable.
If there’s something to take from this, it is that LGBT as well as church-and-state issues exist globally. Israel, like the United States, has problems with ignorance on issues of LGBT and religion. Although America’s problems with religion are different, the similarity with Israel is sometimes sickening. The religious institutions there are very entwined with the government too. Even in another highly democratic country exist the same religious conflicts.
Something else that we should take into consideration, is that the LGBT community is our ally and vice versa. After hearing Greta Christina’s speech I’m even more convinced that our groups should be supporting one another. For one, there is considerable overlap between the communities. Not to mention the Purdue Society of Non-Theists are a part of the Queer Student Union. We should be using that to our mutual benefit, because we are fighting the same people about similar issues. As an ally, I’m proud to be a part of the secular movement, and happy that my LGBT peers feel safe that people like us exist!